Tuesday, April 30, 2013

People Who Inspired Me

Today is Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

"When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves."  –Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free.

I was just thinking about some of the people who have inspired me through the years for various reasons.  Not all of these people inspired me to do something in particular. Some of them were inspirations simply because of the way they lived their lives.  Some of them are famous, but others are not.  Some are still with us, while others have completed their journey here in the physical plane for the time being. Today I'm going to tell you about three of them who were not famous, but who meant a lot to me.

One of my earliest inspirations was a music teacher of mine named Evelyn Solberg.  We called her Mrs. Solberg, and I can't remember now whether she was really a widow or unmarried with a courtesy title.  She had probably started her teaching career in the 1930s.  A lot of places required female teachers to remain unmarried.  Back then, once you were married, you weren't supposed to have to earn money, anyway, and besides, you could suddenly get pregnant, and it would never do to allow students to see a baby bump.  Of course, nowadays it's different, and women can teach into their last stages of pregnancy.  How things have changed!

I don't think I really realized how much she had inspired me until I became a teacher, myself.   She taught music; I taught English as a Second Language.  Both of us were regarded as "specialist" teachers.  She didn't have her own classroom; she had to travel from classroom to classroom to teach.  I had to do that, too.  She made that look easy, but now I know it is not.  You have to be very organized when you go from room to room.  Whatever you need for the lesson has to be right there with you - you can't afford to forget anything.  You have to carry heavy things from room to room, too.

But the thing that inspired me the most – and once again, I only realized it many years later – was her reaction to having cancer.  Back then, in the early 1960s, cancer was a death sentence.  There were no such things as "cancer survivors," or if there were, I never heard about them.  Mrs. Solberg got weaker and weaker, and finally, in mid-year, it was time for her to say goodbye.  As a cancer survivor, myself, I know now how exhausted she must have been, and why she looked so tired, toward the end.

I have no idea how many students there were in that school, but I would estimate that there were probably 270 kids, tops.  The old stone building featured three floors with 3 to 5 classrooms on each floor, situated around a central hallway.  The nurse's office and principal's office were on mezzanine floors between 2nd and 3rd floors, and the small kitchen and dining area was in the basement, with the three first-grade classrooms.  2nd, 3rd and 4th-grade classrooms were on 2nd floor and the 5th and 6th-grade rooms were on the top floor.  There were, of course, no elevators in the building.  I can't imagine how she managed the stairs!

On her very last day, Mrs. Solberg stood in the middle of the 2nd-floor hallway and shook hands with each and every student on her last day. Even then, I wondered how she could stand there while all those kids walked by to say farewell.  I did stay home quite a bit after my cancer surgery, and during chemo, but I felt that I had to work as much as I could, so I remember how exhausted the simplest things made me feel.  When I got tired, I thought about Miss Solberg, and I decided that if she could do it, so could I.

When Miss Solberg died, she left a lot of her sheet music to my mom.  My folks went to the funeral, but Mom wouldn't let me come along, for whatever reason.  While the adults were busy having the funeral service, my friend, Gwen Larson, and I  sneaked into the vestibule of the church, where the casket was sitting.  We just wanted to say good-bye.

*** *** *** *** ***
Another person who inspired me, also a teacher, was my French and Spanish teacher, Connie House.  Mrs. House was a fabulous teacher, and very energetic.  When I became a teacher, I used some of her techniques in my own classroom.  What I liked about her was the way she seemed to understand her high school students and all the "stuff" they were going through.  Still, she had a strict side, and she didn't let kids talk her into giving them slack.  I remember her as being very protective of kids, and concerned about their well-being.  She seemed to be an advocate for us.   She always had a smile on her face.

The summer after my sophomore year of high school – that would have been 1969 – she took several of us to Quebec province, in Canada, to practice our French.  It was quite a trip!  We lived in Rock Rapids, Iowa, at the time, and we took a school bus from northwest Iowa all the way up to  Winnipeg, Canada.  I can't imagine doing that, now, since school buses don't have very good shocks, and you can feel each and every little bump in the road.  We were teens, at the time, so we didn't care, but I now have a little more sympathy for Mrs. House and her parent chaperons, because school buses are just not made for adult bodies.  

We didn't know where to eat our first night in Winnipeg, so the bus just took us to a drive-up place that looked promising.  It turned out that the proprietors were recent immigrants to Canada, from Greece, and their English was not very good.  (Remember that they speak English in most provinces; they only speak French in Quebec.)  We did try our our French on them, but that didn't work.  The menu was in Greek, so we ended up ordering by pointing to a picture.  We also wanted to swim in Winnipeg's Olympic-sized pool, and we did find it, but not before getting incredibly lost.  In Canada, there are three things they say to you when you ask for directions.  "Straight ahead, you can't miss it,'  "Three blocks," or "You can't get there from here."   We heard that last remark a number of times, and I'm sure Mrs. House was frustrated, but she never showed it.   Me, I would have developed nervous hives. 

We all got on a train in Winnipeg to travel east across Canada to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.   We spent one night on the train, in coach – very uncomfortable, especially for the adults!  In Toronto, we had hotel accommodations, thank God.  Naturally, the kids wanted to go shopping.  It must have been hell to herd all those teenagers through the stores.  Then it was on to Ottawa by train, where we stopped and toured the Parliament building and rode in horse-drawn carriages called caleches. The dictionary says claeche means the fold-down hood of a horse-drawn carriage, and these carriages did have fold-down tops.  My understanding was that the whole carriage was called a caleche, but who knows?  What teenagers understand and what adults understand are two different things, a lot of times.   Anyway, it was fun, and since I was one of the girls Mrs. House thought she could trust not to flirt too boldly with the handsome young man who drove our carriage, I was allowed to sit up next to the driver. 

Mrs. House was as strict as she could be with the girls, but it was hard, I know, to rein everybody in.  In the train, we all went to the dining car together and I remember eating shrimp cocktail for the very first time in my life.  We had fun chatting with the chefs in French.  One of the boys, to be funny, asked the chefs in English if the food was "on the house," and he replied in English with a strong French accent, "Non, zees eez on ze train!"   It was one thing to supervise the conversation with the chefs, but then some of us girls met some French-speaking soldiers in the Canadian army who wanted to chat with American girls who could speak French.  (I'm sure that seemed like a novelty to them, Americans who could speak anything besides English.)  I remember that Mrs. House said later she was concerned that the girls on the tour might get sidetracked talking to guys and then get separated from the group.  Logistically, I don't know how she did it.  She made it look easy, and fun.   But I know she had this idea that most young men had one thing in mind: sex. 

I remember that we rode the subway in Montreal, a first for me, and that we toured the site of "Expo 67" (1967 International and Universal Exposition), which was Canada's way of celebrating its centennial year.  The event was considered the most successful World's Fair in the 20th century, and we had read all about it.  Naturally, most of it was closed in 1969, but it was still exciting to see where it had been held.  For kids from Iowa, the subway ride, alone, was thrilling.

When we got back on the train for the short ride from Montreal to Quebec City one evening, there were a bunch of college boys, all quite drunk.  One of them hung around the entrance to the car we were sitting in, and I remember Mrs. House insisting that he move. She was sure that the young man wanted to rub up against the teen girls' bodies as they made their way into the crowded car.  We all found places to sit, and then tried to sleep, since it was late at night, but the college boys, all of them three sheets to the wind, were singing sexually explicit songs in French at the top of their lungs.  "First, we did it in the bed.  Then we did it on the floor.  Then we did it on the table," they sang.  I know Mrs. House wanted to run from girl to girl to cover our ears, but there was just no way she could do that.  She contented herself with the fact that some of the "flirty" girls in the group didn't understand French so well, so they probably didn't get the entire meaning of the song.  I remember her asking whether I understood the song.  The guys were so sloshed that their words were pretty slurred, but yeah, I got the gist of it. 

In Quebec City, we visited a Catholic private school and spoke with the students there.  We were given two common dorm rooms to sleep in – one for the boys and one for the girls.  I remember that the air quality was bad in Quebec City, and the Canadians told us that the dirty air would cause spontaneous runs in our pantyhose.  It was true.    On our last evening in Quebec City, we all got to see the movie that everybody was talking about, Romeo and Juliet, which had come out the year before.  This was quite risqué, as the film included a little nudity, which was shocking at the time.  There was some question about whether a certain scene had been cut from the American version and whether we would be able to see it in Canada, but I didn't notice anything different, and believe me, we paid very close attention to the bedroom scene.  I remember that Mrs. House found it hard to get enough taxis to take us back to our dorm, and about seven of us girls were packed into one cab.  We sang the Beatles' tune, "Michele" in the cab and chatted with the driver, who probably thought we were hilarious.  I do remember that Mrs. House haggled with the drivers, and made sure that they would go directly to our destination, without any side trips, and I remember that she discussed the fare in advance with the drivers.  There were actually too many of us in our cab to be legal, so some of us were hidden on the floor in the back seat.  What a ride!

Later on in life, when I was married and living in Japan, Mrs. House contacted me and asked if she could bring her granddaughter and stay in our home.  I had fun showing them around Japan, and I remember thinking that it was neat the way she had switched from language teaching to gifted and talented education.  She had also self-published a book of memoirs.  Life goes on, and it's good to see people moving on and doing following new interests in life.

*** *** *** *** ***

Loy Storey, with his son Jeff.
 A third person who inspired me was a fellow who owned the local grocery and dry-goods store in the little town of Jeffers, Minnesota.  My family moved there during the summer after I graduated from high school, so I never really felt that I lived there; I just visited from time to time.  The Storey family went to the same church as my folks did, and Loy Storey was a very active supporter of the local school and its activities.  My younger sister and brothers all told me how the kids loved Loy because he supported them at sports events, concerts, and everything else.  

Loy's wife, Lavonne, was a piano teacher, so it was particularly hard on her when she suffered progressive hearing loss, to the point that she was profoundly deaf.  I totally identified with Lavonne, because I am also partially deaf, and I have long thought that I would probably end up totally deaf in old age.  I watched  carefully to see how she and Loy handled it.

Loy was such a trooper.  When Lavonne could still hear, he had a light installed on their telephone, so she would know when it was ringing.  They loved to entertain, and I remember her putting on quite a spread (which is usually called "a little lunch" in Minnesota talk, no matter what time of day it is served) when my family visited them one evening.  We sat down at their formal dining table, which was covered by a formal, ivory lace tablecloth.  As we chatted, I noticed that Loy made every effort to include Lavonne in the conversation, and he made sure she understood the punchline of every joke.

Later, Loy took Lavonne to the University of Iowa, where they were testing newfangled hearing devices that could be implanted into the bone.  She had two channels, then four, then eight or sixteen.  The more "channels" she had installed, the more fine-tuned her hearing was, but I remember her saying that she still couldn't enjoy music the way she used to.

Through it all, Loy was sweet and attentive to his wife's every need, and I remember wishing to find a husband that would be as kind to me, in sickness as in health, as Loy was to his wife.

People like Mrs. Solberg, Mrs. House, and Loy Story are treasures in our lives, the gems that twinkle at us from a  pile of ordinary stones in the ground.   All of them were examples of  living the best version of themselves.  All of them were inspiring simply because of the way they chose to live their lives.  I am blessed to have known them. :-)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Do It, Anyway

Dr. Kent M. Keith and Mother Theresa
Today is Monday, April 29, 2013.

These days, quotes are bandied about the Internet with such a disregard for giving credit that it is becoming nearly impossible to tell who said what.  People just don't check their sources.  If a friend of ours emailed a quote to us, or posted it on Facebook, and if we agree with the sentiment, we pass it along to others, usually without checking.  Of course, if we disagree, then we are sometimes motivated to check it out, if only to prove to the person who posted it how wrongheaded it is.

The Paradoxical Commandments were originally written in 1968 by Kent M. Keith, when he was a 19-year-old student at Harvard.  They were included in a book he wrote called The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council.   Mother Theresa put some of the commandments on a wall in her Shishu Bhavan children's home in Calcutta.  This was reported in Lucinda Vardley's book, Mother Theresa: A Simple Path, published in 1995.  The commandments were then attributed all over the Internet to Mother Theresa.  Dr. Keith found out about this when he attended a Rotary meeting, and the "quote" from Mother Theresa was read as a prayer.  Dr. Keith was so impressed that Mother Theresa had thought enough of his words to put them up in her children's home that he was encouraged to write his book, Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments, which was published in 2002.  He went on to write several other books based on the Paradoxical Commandments, and he is often invited to speak about them.

Here are the original Paradoxical Commandments:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

 *** *** *** *** ***

Let's look at each of these:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

The first commandment speaks of unconditional love.  This is the kind of love that God showers on every single human being.  Yes... even Hitler.  This love is absolutely unconditional.  There are no conditions such as "if you are good" or "if you go to church" or even "if you believe in Jesus."  No conditions at all.  Just because God loves us doesn't necessarily mean that we are all capable of accepting God's love, however.  It is those who cannot accept God's love whom we generally think of as evil.  When we learn to see ourselves and everyone around us as Soul, we realize that we are all from the same spiritual Source.  We realize that everybody is just doing the best they can with the cards they are dealt.  

Loving unconditionally does not mean that we are obligated to be friends with everyone, or invite them into our home.  It doesn't mean that we have to agree with what they say or approve of what they do.  It simply means that we recognize them as children of God and try not to judge them.   Here, I am using the word "judge" to mean deciding that people are inherently good or evil based on their behavior.   We know that life will teach them better when they err, just as it does for us, and we recognize their right to learn and grow at their own pace. 

We know that God has created the physical world as a giant feedback loop that works impartially.  When we make mistakes, we get negative feedback.  It is up to us to interpret that feedback and make changes in our own lives.  Learning by experience this way takes many lifetimes, but God is not pressed for time.  God is eternal, and so are we, as Soul.  God knows that each Soul will "get it" in the fullness of time.  If not in this lifetime, then in the next, or the next.  Those who seem to "get away with" their evil deeds will find themselves in unpleasant life circumstances, sooner or later.  Probably sooner.  Once again, if not in this lifetime, then in another life.  It's not that our justice system can't play the role of karmic balancer.  It can.  It's just not up to us, personally, to judge. 

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

I suppose that you could consider the Law of Karma a type of "ulterior motive," but this advice is still a no-brainer.  We know that positive consequences will come into our lives if our actions are positive.  This is not to say that we shouldn't examine our motives carefully to see that we are, in fact, not guilty of ulterior motives.  Self-examination of this type can be hard to do.  If we have any expectation of return, then it's true that we are doing something with ulterior motives.  We have expectations of this type more often than we realize, because they are buried deep within our subconscious. 

Here's an example.  A teacher friend of mine, who has since retired, bent over backwards to give one of her students special help, and she had worked hard to get him into a particular remedial program that she thought would be helpful to him.  She had also made efforts to see to it that his family had other forms of help, provided by a social service agency. The family abruptly left the area, which is not an uncommon thing to happen among families in poverty.  I have no idea why they left.  The father could have lost his job, or maybe they just didn't like the social worker types nosing around. For whatever reason, they left, with no word, and no expression of thanks.  The teacher who had done so much for this child was upset, and complained to me that the student and his family were ungrateful.  At this point, I had a realization: no wonder so many teachers burn out!  Somehow, completely subconsciously, they expect some sort of recognition for their efforts – if not a fat salary and awards, at least a pat on the back once in a while and a word of thanks.  It sounds logical enough, but the fact is that if we can't, or won't, do the right thing without any expectation of reward, then we are not doing it with a pure heart. 

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

This commandment is more of a warning.  It's true that the more successful you are, the more hangers-on you may collect.  Being spiritual doesn't mean being a wimp.  In my opinion, the "turn the other cheek" philosophy has more to do with not complaining about being mistreated, not making ourselves into victims, rather than inviting others to mistreat us again and again.  It's perfectly OK to stand up to people who would take advantage of us.  It's fine to have a trusting nature, and most people we meet will not knowingly betray that trust.  But it's also a good idea to recognize that not all Souls are mature enough to behave with honesty, grace, dignity, and integrity.  Keep a sharp lookout for those people, and find ways to avoid them, or at least avoid being beholden to them.

It's also true that the more successful you are, the more "enemies" you may have.  This may be because people are jealous of your position, your salary, or your possessions.  It may also be because they recognize that you have some influence with certain people.  It may be that they disagree with you in matters of policy, politics, or religion.  The best thing you can do is to refuse to interact with them, unless it is required at work, or unless you are a politician who is running for office.  The less opportunity you give people to argue with you, the better.  It's not always important – in fact, it's almost never important – to have the last word or to make your opinions known.  People don't generally change their opinions based on what you say, anyway, even if you are a politician.  Especially if you are a politician.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

This is another commandment about doing the right thing without expectation of reward.  What is important is to act with integrity, so that your actions match your fine thoughts and words.  It doesn't matter if you pick up a piece of litter in a public place or leave a thousand dollars to a specific person or charity.   The important thing is that you do what you think is right, by your own lights.  You may even find out later that what you did was not necessarily the best course of action, but at least you did it with good intentions, because you believed it was the right thing to do.  What you do may end up being incredibly important in a stranger's life or it may go totally unnoticed.  Perhaps what you do will just make this earth a nicer place to live.  Someone may appreciate it, but most will not.  What matters is that you act in God's name, and with a pure heart.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

It's important to be honest, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's OK to be tactless or careless of others' feelings.  Sometimes we say things that people are just plain not ready to hear.  Discernment and tactfulness are key.  It is always better to be kind than to be absolutely right.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

 In the area of computer technology, the Internet, and social media, it was the big thinkers that won the day: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few.  Not only were they big thinkers, but they were the ones who could bring their ideas to fruition.  One page on the Internet has has a collection of quotes from people who did not recognize the big ideas coming down the pike.  

Here are some examples, with thanks to RinkWorks Online Entertainment.

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility." -- Lee DeForest, inventor.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" -- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax." -- William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British scientist, 1899.

"It will be years -- not in my time -- before a woman will become Prime Minister." -- Margaret Thatcher, 1974.

"With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." -- Business Week, August 2, 1968.       

You get the drift.

Not only should we be open to big ideas even when it seems that they may never work, we also need to respect the people who actually bring those ideas to us in usable form.  As an example, when Steve Jobs invented the first Apple computer, there were other personal computers out there, mostly owned by Silicon Valley nerds.  What Jobs did was make computers accessible and usable by people who haven't the foggiest idea how to program them, which is to say, the general public.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

My personal underdog at the moment is the clean energy movement. 

The other day I was talking to someone about electric cars, and the fellow told me that the batteries that are currently available are very dangerous, and that electric cars are not suitable for long-distance travel because there aren't many places you can go to charge them up. Also, at present, electric cars are too small and too light to be useful for carrying a lot of stuff or safe on the highway.  He's right, of course, but what he fails to appreciate is that there will eventually be someone who will build a battery that is not dangerous, one that can go hundreds of miles before needing to be charged. People in the nanotechnology business are already working on it.  Eventually batteries will have enough power to run cars that are large enough to carry several people and heavy enough to be safe on the highway. And the person who develops a chain of stations along the highway where people can charge up or the one who invents a portable charger will probably be trillionaires, accounting for inflation.

Other people say that electric cars will never get off the ground because of resistance from the fossil fuel industry.  It's true that electric cars won't be driven by the majority of us for a long time, but remember that these industries are in business to make a buck. When they see that they can make money from producing cleaner energy, they will jump on it.  

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

Some versions of the Paradoxical Commandments use the word "create" rather than "build."  Same difference.  

It is now thought by some that there were advanced human civilizations before recorded history, but that almost everything they built was destroyed in some sort of cataclysm.  The only things that were left were certain huge structures, such as the Pyramids of Egypt.  People are saying this because recently, engineers familiar with modern technology have been studying the Pyramids.  Before, only archaeologists studied them, and what did they know about modern technology?  Nothing!  The engineers who work on modern stone buildings know how to measure building materials accurately and how to recognize the markings that are left on stone when it has been cut using machine tools.  They are saying that the stones used to build the Pyramids and other ancient structures were cut by machine, and that the ancient builders were working with technology so advanced that they were able to measure more accurately than we generally do today!   One of the reasons we can't duplicate the Pyramids today is that we simply don't have the requisite technology.  In other words, we're not as advanced as whoever built the Pyramids!  We don't know how they were built, either, because all the evidence of building – the machines they used, and some of the principles they were working with (such as anti-gravity) are long gone.  Although we still don't understand exactly what the Pyramids were for or how they were built, we do have them to study, and we can be thankful that not everything was destroyed in the cataclysm.  

Today we are seeing more and more mega-storms and extreme weather fluctuations that are destroying property and seriously disrupting lives.  We are experiencing more earthquake activity, as well.  Whole towns were washed out to sea in the tidal waves that were created by the recent massive earthquake in Japan.  And whole towns were deserted after the meltdown in the nuclear reactor in that same country.  Does that mean it was a mistake for the Japanese to build and prosper?  Of course not.   It wasn't the things the Japanese built, or the companies they formed that led to economic prosperity in Japan; it was the actual process of working hard on the part of individuals.  A lot of people learned about discipline and attention to detail.  They learned about working in groups and making important improvements on existing products.  None of these things was a waste of time.  Spiritually speaking, these Souls gained valuable life skills and qualities that they can take with them into future lifetimes.  

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

There's certainly nothing wrong with helping people, but I would submit that it's important to make sure that we are not imposing our ideas, opinions, and values on others.  It's a good idea to get very clear about our motives for helping people.  Are we really doing it to make a positive difference in the other person's life, or are we really just doing it to make ourselves feel better?  Are we offering only enough help to get people on the right track, or are we taking away their opportunity to learn how to solve the problem on their own?   We can always make an offer, but if our help is not appreciated, it's OK to walk away with no hard feelings.  If people "attack" us for helping them, it's a sure sign that they don't really want the help, and that we are (perhaps unconsciously) imposing our will on others inappropriately.  Controlling people is not helping them.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

The true reward for a job well done should never be a reaction by someone else.  If you do things because you crave their approval or fear their disapproval, you are only giving other people power over you.  The trick is not to let people's disapproval upset you, and not to let roadblocks keep you from your goals.  I'm not saying that this is easy.  I'm saying it's necessary, no matter how difficult. Instead of focusing on people's reactions to what you do, whether negative or positive, focus on what you can learn from the experience, and don't be shy about appreciating the perseverance, dedication, discipline, and intelligence you had to manifest in order to get the job done.  Maybe you learned patience, maybe you learned how to work effectively with others by inspiring them.  Whatever it was, you have benefited.  No experience is ever wasted if you can learn something from it.

*** *** *** *** ***
There are two more lines that are often put at the end of these commandments.  

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Dr. Keith disagrees with these lines because of his Christian views, but in my opinion, this last part is absolutely true, because the whole reason we as Soul come here into physical life is to have experiences from which we can learn to manifest qualities that will make us more useful to God.  Truly, it is never about others.  It is always about us.  Everyone is working on his or her own "stuff."  We play parts both large and small in each other's dramas.  This is a good example of the efficiency and economy with which this physical world was created; we help each other even as we are helping ourselves, with God's grace. :-)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pursue That Which Captures Your Heart

Today is Sunday, April 28, 2013.

"Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart."   –Native American Proverb

I've been thinking about this piece of advice for a few days, and decided to look up some sites online that give career advice.  I remember years ago talking to a young man who had been in one of my high school classes and who was in his first year post-high school.  He surprised me with a phone call to ask for some advice.  He told me that he had a lot of different interests, including fiber optics, dancing, and something else that I can no longer recall.  He'd been counseled to pursue his interests, but the fact was that he had a lot of very different interests.  This was back in the 1980s, but even then I knew that the average person in the United States no longer had only one lifelong career job.  I told him that he should prioritize his interests and just focus on one, for the job, but I also told him that not all of his interests needed to lead to a career.  The happiest people in life seem to be the ones who have not only a job that they like, but also an avocation, which is a lifelong interest that is often more than just a hobby.  I told my former student that no matter what job or career he trained for, he would probably end up in something totally different by the end of his working life, and that the job he finally retired from might not have been invented yet.  I told him that whatever skills he had honed in one or more previous jobs might be just the right combination of skills to get his next job. 

The statistics say that nowadays the average American has about 10 or 11 jobs in his or her lifetime, and that in the future, the average may jump to 15.   With kids getting jobs the age of 16 or so, the first few jobs are likely to be part-time jobs or summer jobs taken to pay for gas and upkeep of that first car.  Also, not all job changes are career changes.  For example, I have taught in elementary, junior high, high school and college levels, and I have also taught adults.  I have taught Japanese language, French language, and English as a Second Language. That's a lot of different jobs for one career. I suspect a lot of people's working life has been like that.  Another big change in the work environment is that there are more people working as consultants to several different firms, rather than being a regular employee of only one company.  More and more people are starting up businesses, many of them online. 

Very few people plan their career changes.  Most of the people I know who have switched careers wholesale more or less bumbled from one thing to another, and the change resulted from being in the right place at the right time, knowing someone influential, or being told that their job was cut and they would have to find other employment.

Nowadays, career counselors are telling young  people that they may be able to parlay a particular passion of theirs into a career, but maybe not all at once.  Young people are counseled to find a job that pays the bills, then plan a way to turn their passion into income later in life.  They are told to pursue their passion by carving out a special niche for it in their free time, expanding their network of contacts in the field that they are passionate about, and expecting to do a lot of volunteering at first.  They are counseled to take classes in their area of passion and try to save up enough money to live without income for a few months while they finally make the switch.  It sounds like good advice to me.  Naturally, when one is married, especially if there are children to support, one has to have one's spouse's blessing and be sure that the children's needs are taken care of.

There seems to be disagreement about the statement, "Find your passion and the money will come."  First, I agree that it isn't always true, at least at first.  In fact, one may never get a lot of money from following their passion.  Teachers are a prime example of this.

Teaching has been a lifelong passion for me, and I never seriously imagined any other career.  I'd say that most teachers – not all, it's true, but most – are passionate about kids and about education, but for the most part, teachers are not paid what they're worth, and that's even more true in private schools and universities than in K-12 public schools.  However, I would say that for the vast majority of teachers, money is not their first priority, and while almost everyone in education would like to be making as much as even the middle-management people in business, not that many teachers actually quit because of low salary.  Some do, and that's fine, because if money is your priority, you are probably not that good a teacher, anyway.   Money just isn't everything.  Of course, if you think otherwise, no amount of explanation on my part will bring you around to this point of view.  I know there are people who cannot imagine being satisfied with a meagre salary.  So be it.

So I followed my bliss and no, there wasn't that much money in it, but I got a lot of satisfaction out of it, all told.  If I had researched money-making careers as a young woman, and if I had chosen some other career, I would probably not have been very happy.  Still, I always knew that teaching took a lot out of me, physically and mentally, and that there would come a time when the energy drain was just too much.  It would have been great if I'd taken my own advice about planning for a career switch in my retirement years.  While I was working, I could have spent a lot more time free time writing, and I might even have been published by now.  I would hopefully also have made a wide range of author, agent and publisher contacts.  But of course, that is just crying over spilled milk at this point.

I do at least have a basic retirement income and the time now to do the writing that I have always dreamed of doing.  I've taken on not one, but two blogs, and so far I am publishing something every single day.  I haven't managed to get it down to a routine yet, in terms of time spent each day, set working hours, or a goal of a certain number of words per day, but I am pleased to see that I have the discipline, stamina, and perseverance to get two blog entries written every day.   That's a start.

As far as things that have caught my eye in life, I have always wanted to be able to afford a three-bedroom apartment, with one bedroom dedicated as an office and a guest bedroom for friends and relatives.  I even tried that, once, but it was just a bit too expensive for my blood.  Another thing that caught my eye has been travel, and I've done that, too, but with declining health and energy, not to mention a sharply-reduced income in retirement, travel is not something that I will be doing a great deal of.  At various times in my life, I have enjoyed playing the piano and flute, taking voice lessons and singing with choirs, and learning how to do Japanese flower arrangements but for one reason or another none of these has been a lifelong passion.  I still aim to try to keep up with the flower arrangements, but on a limited basis.  The other things were fun while they lasted, and I learned a lot.  In many ways, my time as a singer was like living a whole other lifetime.  I enjoyed it immensely, but can never go back to it.  And I'm OK with that.

For now, writing has captured my heart, and I pursue it each day. Who knows what will happen next...?  :-)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Attachment and Detachment

Today is Saturday, April 27, 2013.

One definition of attachment is a feeling that binds one person to another.  When a baby is born, a natural attachment is formed between the parents and the child.  This attachment on the part of the parents serves to ensure that the parents will take care of the child's needs.  Attachment on the part of the child to the parents ensures that the child will pay attention to them and obey them.  (There's nothing like wanting to please someone you love to enforce obedience.)   When this natural attachment does not develop, we know that something is wrong. But even when the parent-child bond develops as it should, there is a point where the bond gradually weakens.  The love remains, but the attachment gradually dissolves as children mature into adulthood. 

As we grow and mature, we form other attachments.  We attach ourselves to people, organizations, places, social status, money, and our beliefs and opinions.  A little attachment is a good thing; otherwise we would go through life without entering into any relationships or interactions, and our time here in human existence would be wasted.  Excessive attachment, on the other hand, is problematic.  One of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is: The origin of suffering is attachment.

It's important to make a distinction between attachment and love.  It's one thing to love a person and enjoy their company, or to love a thing such as a certain food and enjoy the taste of it.  We enjoy the sensation of togetherness with a loved one, and the pleasure of shared experience.  We enjoy the taste of the food and perhaps also the surroundings in which we partake of the food.  We love the person, we love the food; there is nothing wrong with this.  In a normal situation, we love the person no matter where he or she is, whether the person is physically with us or not.   We love the food whether we have it every day or not.  In fact, our pleasure generally increases if we don't have it every day.

Attachment, in the spiritual sense, is a feeling that we cannot live without the person or thing that we are attached to.  What underlies this feeling is fear: fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of loss of control, fear of death, and fear of uncertainty.  This is why the Buddhists say that attachment causes suffering.  Meditation and spiritual practice help us to achieve a state of non-attachment, because we realize that we as Soul are eternal and immortal, that we are always connected to God, the Source of all life, that we are unconditionally loved by God, and that God is always looking out for our best interests, whether we realize it or not.  When we come to these realizations, our fear of abandonment, rejection, loss of control, death and uncertainty vanish, and we are free to enjoy life in whatever situation we find ourselves.

Many of us have had the uncomfortable experience of being more attracted to or in love with someone than they are attracted to or in love with us.  Sometimes what we are really attached to is an ideal of romantic love, especially when we are young.  If we refuse to see the situation for what it is, we try to hang onto the person, and our needy behavior ends up driving the person away.  Once the person is gone, we feel rejected and unlovable, and our self-confidence takes a nose-dive.  Sometimes this experience makes it hard for us to move into other relationships.  We remember how hurt we felt when the person left us, and we begin to build walls around ourselves, making it even harder to open ourselves up to a fulfilling relationship.  Instead of realizing that we are keeping other people at bay, we decide that we must be unlovable and maybe we don't even deserve to have a relationship, anyway.  If someone does come into our lives with whom we might have a connection, we push them away.   What a recipe for misery!

When someone whom we love very much dies, we are in a state of grief, which is a natural process.  But at some point, even though we never stop missing the one who left us, we realize that life does go on, and that we will have to re-construct our lives without our beloved.  When we have been excessively attached to the person who died, we feel that we can no longer function without them in our lives, and our fear of abandonment is triggered.  Undue attachment leads to depression, bitterness and anger toward the one who has abandoned us.

Attachment to money, power and status also create misery in our lives when we succumb to the illusion that these things are necessary for our happiness.  These forms of attachment work just like addiction to cigarettes, drugs or alcohol, or overindulgence in food or sex. It is the illusion that something outside of ourselves can make us happy.  The more we get, the less satisfied we are, because we fear some future time when these things will be taken away from us.  Wanting something comes from a perceived lack, a feeling of emptiness and loss.

Going back to the parent-child attachment, there are several instances where normal attachment becomes abnormal.  Parents who wish to control their children's lives, especially after they reach adulthood, are reacting to underlying abandonment issues.  The result is unhappiness for all.  The adult children sometimes feel that they can never measure up to an unwritten standard that their parents have set.  Or the adult children's marriages suffer because one or both parents insists that they demonstrate loyalty to the parents instead of to the spouse.

Most of us are unaware of how attached we are to our beliefs and opinions, until someone else expresses a contrary opinion or behaves in a way that violates a taboo.  Attachment to opinions plays itself out over and over in American life, every time we hold an election, but especially during a presidential race.  Conservatives and liberals alike express their opinions at meetings and social events, in the media, and online.  Everyone seems to think that if they just explain their thoughts well enough, everyone who holds an opposite view will see the error of their ways.   Nothing could be further from the truth, because we are all attached to our own opinions and unwilling to give them up.  Underlying both conservative and liberal political platforms are all kinds of fears about what might happen if the other side gets control.   After each election, those om the winning side flaunt their superiority and lambaste the opposition for setting roadblocks and obstacles to the successful completion of their initiatives.  Meanwhile, those in opposition wallow in bitterness and blame those in power for every imaginable problem.  Holding elections every two years ensures that Americans never quite get over their self-inflicted misery.

Politics isn't the only area where our attachments to our beliefs and opinions makes us miserable.  Those on the liberal and conservative side of the economic debate also operate from deep-seated fears of what might happen if the other side gets too much control.   The same could be said for adherents of established religions who fear that those of another faith are out to destroy them.  The Egyptians made slaves of the Jews.  Christians killed Jews en masse during the Inquisition and during World War Two.  Eastern Orthodox Greek Cypriots and Muslim Turkish Cypriots have fought many times. Christians went to war with Muslims during the Crusades.  Muslims attacked the World Trade Center buildings in New York on 9/11.  It goes on and on and on.  Truly, our attachments are the root of our misery.  :-/

Friday, April 26, 2013

Taking the High Road

Today is Friday, April 26, 2013.

The expression "take the high road" means to act in ways that are ethical, positive, and diplomatic. Most of us don't even think about this until we get into a situation where it's hard to do.

One thing that my spiritual training has introduced me to is the concept of a higher perspective.  There are actually several different concepts that combine to give us a higher perspective on the people and situations in our lives.  When we seek a higher perspective, it's easier to take the high road.

First of all, when I see myself as a Soul who is having a human experience, I am able to put a lot of things into perspective.  I know that nothing in physical life is forever.  This, too, shall pass.  I know that I came here on purpose, in order to learn and serve.  I know that everyone else is here for the same reason.  We're all learning, and we all have free will to act and react as we see fit.  There's no sense in trying to control other people.  It's enough just to stay in control of myself.    Everything is a learning opportunity, if I will only see it as such.  There's a reason why we express respect and admiration for people who have risen above tragedy; we know at a deep level that these Souls are strong and resourceful, like a golfer who wins the game even with a big handicap.

I know that people react to things around us based on their beliefs, both conscious and subconscious, and that it's not so much what happens as how we interpret what happens and how we feel about what happens.  In that sense, I know that when someone is angry, for example, it's their stuff, not mine.  If I'm wrong, I can apologize, but I don't have to take a a guilt trip. I can exercise compassion when people react badly.  Rarely do we know what is going on in their lives.  Maybe they're going through a nasty divorce, or one of their kids has run away from home.  Maybe a family member has just died, or they have incurred a financial loss.  And maybe they are just not very spiritually mature yet.  We regularly give children slack for their behavior, but we expect more from adults.  But the fact is that not all Souls are at the same level of spiritual maturity in this lifetime.  They're doing the best they can with what they know now.  And we were there, too, at one time. 

I know that I have subconscious fears and that certain people and situations trigger those fears.  When I am aware that I am acting – or about to act – based on those fears, I can step back, regain control of my feelings, and choose to react in a more appropriate manner.  Others react from their own subconscious fears, as well. Maybe they are reacting from some unconscious fear, such as the fear of abandonment.  Maybe they are reacting to a situation in this lifetime that has triggered an unconscious memory of a negative event in a past lifetime.  While it's not necessarily appropriate to analyze others' probable internal motivations, it is always a good thing to remember that all of us have subconscious triggers.  When someone's reaction to the situation seems out of line or out of proportion, a subconscious trigger is often the culprit. It's not our business to bring it to light.  All we have to do is be aware of it and avoid getting pulled into someone else's drama.

I know that I made agreements with some other Souls before I came here, and that some of these people agreed to "play the heavy" or act as mirrors in my life so that I could resolve some karmic issues from past lives or just learn to manifest a quality such as patience.  There are no accidents; everything that happens in our lives is an opportunity for us to grow spiritually. 

I know that detachment is a desirable quality that leads to spiritual maturity.  I don't have to ignore my feelings.  On the contrary, I need to acknowledge them.  But I can exercise detachment so that my behavior is not driven by my emotions, especially negative emotions such as fear, worry, anger, jealousy, or grief.    I know that exercising detachment sometimes requires that I simply walk away from a situation in order to regain control of myself and avoid escalating a situation or incurring more negative karma.

I know that the qualities of self-responsibility, humility, and discernment will stand me in good stead in my life and allow me to grow spiritually.  None of these qualities is easy to manifest.  It's so much easier to pin the blame on someone else rather than to admit that I had a hand in creating a negative situation.  It's embarrassing, sometimes, to have to admit that I was wrong, or that someone else is more accomplished than I am.  It's hard to make a distinction between what my ego wants to do and what I know is right.  Sometimes I want to get revenge or have the last word, rather than walk away and let someone's negative behavior or attitude roll off my back, but then I realize that getting revenge or having the last word is likely to net me some negative karmic payback sometime in the future.  It's not worth it.

Knowing all these things helps me take the high road when people push my buttons, when I find that I'm wrong, when authority figures make decisions that I disagree with, when I feel I've been wronged.  I can stop, take some deep breaths, and let the feelings pass.  Then I can take the high road. :-)

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Today is Thursday, April 25, 2013. 

A couple of days ago, I wrote about reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere to achieve balance at 350 parts per million (ppm).  I talked about ways to get the fossil fuel industry to  reduce emissions, and I talked about putting more of our attention on cleaner sources of fuel, such as wind power and solar energy. What I didn't talk about was divestment.

Individuals and organizations such as companies, universities and colleges, religious institutions, pension funds, and state and local governments invest their money in the stock market to generate income.  Divestment is the opposite of investment.  It means getting rid of our investments that are unethical or morally ambiguous.  Since the fossil fuel industry directly harms the planet, environmental groups are creating a movement to call on individuals and institutions to divest from oil and coal companies. 

Has this tactic ever worked before.  Yes.  In the mid-1980s, 155 institutions of higher learning, 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities divested from multinational companies who were doing business in South Africa in order to protest Apartheid, South Africa's formal policy of racial segregation and discrimination.  Divestment led to the weakening of the Apartheid government, which resulted in the establishment of a more democratic government, the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, and the end of racial discrimination.  

Specifically, environmentalists are asking investors to do two things: 

1) immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies
2) divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years.

These measures may not make much of an impact at first, but the more individuals and institutions that divest, the more uncertain the fossil fuel industry will be about maintaining current business models. It's important to remember, though, that certain institutions have been investing heavily in coal, oil and gas: the top 500 college and university endowments are now investing to the tune of nearly $400 billion.  When you add the value of investments by state pension funds and investments by churches, synagogues and mosques, the amount of money is enough to make big companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell and Peabody sit up and notice.

The hope is that these same individuals and institutions who divest from the fossil fuel companies will then invest their money in clean energy, such as wind and solar power.  Think of it this way. If only 1% of the funds from college and university endowments ($400 billion) were to be invested in clean energy, that would be an investment of $4 billion.  That's still a lot.

Who is driving this initiative on college campuses?  The students, of course.  They are the ones who are inheriting a poisoned planet from us, and they – and their children and grandchildren – will have to live in it.  They are tired of hearing people say that Exxon Mobil, Shell and others are "too big to fail."  They are ready to stand up and be counted.  Not only are they mounting protests, student governments are calling for talks with university administration officials to convince them to divest.  University administrations are listening, and a number of educational institutions have already agreed to divest.  The movement is picking up steam.  Students in bigger universities such as Brown, Cornell and Harvard have been calling on their schools to divest, and the president of Brown has promised to recommend a specific divestment strategy to their governing board in May.  Recently, there has been an article in the Harvard Political Review regarding divestment, indicating that an ongoing dialogue there.  These students know that even if the administrators themselves don't know where the money is being invested, their money managers do, and the money managers have to take direction from the administration of the school.  Students are also lobbying for more transparency on the part of their schools with respect to investments.

A lot of the students who go to these prestigious schools come from wealthy families, and some of them are potentially wealthy in their own right.  These young men and women are the individual investors of tomorrow.  Some of these young people will hold leadership positions in government, business, and religious institutions, and many of them will encourage future divestment from fossil fuels. 

If you're not a college student, how can you help?  

If you are a member of a church, synagogue or mosque, you can find out what your religious institution is investing in and get together with others to encourage the leadership to divest from fossil fuels.  

Public and private employees should find out what investments are being made on behalf of their pension funds and work with others, particularly your unions, to call for divestment from oil, coal and gas industries.

Find out what your city, county or state government is investing in and join in with other concerned citizens to demand divestment.

Do you have to be a financial expert to do this?  No.  Organizations such as 350.org have a divestment toolkit that you can download.  They also have a crew of people on board who can answer questions.

Specifically, the top five coal companies to divest from include 
  1. Severstal JSC
  2. Anglo American PLC
  3. BHP Billiton
  4. Shanxi Coking Co. Ltd.
  5. Exxaro Resources Ltd.
The top five oil and gas companies to target are 
  1. Lukoil Holdings
  2. Exxon Mobil Corp.
  3. BP PLC
  4. Gazprom OAO
  5. Chevron Corp.
For a full list of companies, click here.  For resources (PDF files) that you can download, print out and distribute to people, go to the following links:  Carbon Tracker Initiative and NRDC Fuel Facts.

What if you are an individual investor?  Right now, the only broad-based mutual funds that are fossil-free are Green Century Balanced Fund and Portfolio 21 Global Equity Mutual Fund.   Here is a list of financial planners and asset managers that can help you divest, if you wish to do this.

What if you have no investments, but would like to help?  Check out 350.org and Go Fossil Free for more information.  :-)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You Are More Beautiful Than You Think

Today is Wednesday, April 24, 2013. 

The other day I watched this video that's been going around on Facebook.  It was created by the company that produces Dove soap for women.  In the video, a forensic artist named Gil Zamora sketched the faces of several women without looking at them.  The women sat down on the other side of a curtain from the artist and were asked to describe their faces in detail: eyes, forehead, nose, chin, etc.  

Later, there were some other people who were introduced to these women and told to pay close attention to  how they looked.  These people were asked to describe the women who had described themselves to Zamora.  The artist did not see any of the people he drew, nor did he see any of the people who described the women.  

When the experiment was finished, each woman had two drawings of herself: one drawn according to how she described herself, and the other drawn according to the description of someone she had just met.  For each set of pictures, it was obvious that they were of the same person, but the difference in the two drawings was striking.

Without exception, the drawing of the woman done according to her own description showed her in her worst light.  One seemed fatter than she really was.  Another's face was hard-edged and angry-looking. One woman had messier hair.  Another looked sadder and more introverted.

At the end of the experiment, the women whose faces were drawn were shown both drawings, and it was clear that they were not only surprised at how much prettier the other person thought they were, but every one of them was also chagrined to realize how hard they had been on themselves.  All of them seemed a little disappointed in themselves, and more than one seemed moved to tears.  

The women agreed that it is important to see ourselves in our best light, because our feelings about ourselves have an impact on what friends we choose, how we interview for a job, how we treat our children.   Having a positive feeling about ourselves is critical to our happiness and wellbeing. 

At the end of this powerful film, there was one simple statement: You are more beautiful than you think. 

Our self-image is a mental picture of ourselves that we carry around with us all the time.  It resides in our subconscious, and it is incredibly resistant to change.  Our self-image comes not only from looking at ourselves in the mirror, but also from data that we get about ourselves from others, such as an IQ test score or our report cards at school.  We also tend to internalize comments that other people make about us, especially if they are adults that we love or adults who have authority over us, but also if they are peers who are seen as somehow better than we are.  (For example, for many young girls, the opinion of the popular kids who may not like us is much more important than the opinion of nice kids who like us, but who are not very "cool.") 

Young children, in particular, are apt to accept and internalize the opinions of adults in authority because they have no criteria for interpreting or evaluating the statements.  In other words, they don't have the wherewithal to say to themselves, "Mom doesn't really mean that.  She's just had a big argument with Dad and she's upset."  They don't know enough to day, "Dad's drunk, and he's just lashing out because he's angry about something that happened at work."

Girls, in particular, are bombarded with a lot of idealized images in magazines, on TV, and in films, and they are accordingly more judgmental about their appearance.  Later in life, women with negative self-images tend to have less satisfying sex lives.  Mothers who recognize some of their own traits in their children often unconsciously communicate their dislike of that particular trait, thereby passing on to their children a negative self-image.  

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, discovered that when he performed plastic surgery on people who had suffered facial damage in accidents or people who had been born with a facial deformity, the patients with a negative self-image often insisted that the surgery had not changed their looks, even when they saw photographs of themselves before and after surgery.  He studied how the subconscious mind works and developed ways to work with patients to improve their self-esteem before surgery, so that they might be able to accept and appreciate the way they looked after surgery.  His experiences were written in his book, Psycho Cybernetics.

What can we do to improve our own self-image?  For one thing, we can come to an understanding about why some adults made negative comments about us.  Maybe Mom was drunk, or very upset about something.  Maybe she didn't like her own hair, so she criticized yours.  Maybe her own mother criticized her.  We can realize that we are not obligated to accept these ideas about ourselves just because someone we loved or someone in authority said them. We can forgive these people for the negative images that they gave us, recognizing that many of those messages were unconsciously given.

We can surround ourselves with people who uplift and support us.  We are not chained to the friends who make snide remarks about our clothes or hair.  We don't have to spend time with people we know talk about us behind our backs, even if they happen to be members of the family!

We can accept that we have flaws and imperfections, and we can make an effort to look for things that we like about ourselves.  With an especially supportive friend or circle of friends, we can do an exercise where we express positive things that we admire about each other.

We can refuse to accept guilt trips, knowing that much of the time when a person blames others, they are either incapable of accepting responsibility or they are really angry with themselves.  We can realize that most people are easier on us than we are on ourselves.

When we criticize ourselves, we can stop and ask ourselves if we would use the same terms (fat, stupid, lazy) to describe one of our friends.  If we wouldn't use these words to describe others, why are we using them to describe ourselves?

Last, but not least, we can learn to identify with ourselves as Soul, and we can seek to understand why we might have chosen the body we are in.  What lessons can we learn from life in our current body?  Realizing that the body is not who we really are, but only a suit of clothes that we have put on in order to live and move and have our being here in the physical world this time around does wonders for our overall sense of self-esteem.  

After all, God does not make junk. :-)